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Georgia Sen. Emanuel Jones’ office announced this week the cancellation of two remaining town hall meetings intended to educate DeKalb County voters on the ethics referendum provision on the ballot.

Several lawmakers responded first with dismay about Jones’ decision, and later with defiance.

The meetings will go on, several legislators told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, because they made promises to answer questions about the controversial proposal ahead of Election Day in November.

“We’ve made a commitment to constituents to be accessible over the next month, and I fully intend to fulfill that promise,” Rep. Matt Wilson, D-Brookhaven, said.

  

Digging deep

Over the past year, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s investigations of DeKalb County corruption have helped to trigger an FBI probe, changes in county policy, additional funding for the county ethics board and other reform efforts. Reporter Johnny Edwards first revealed last March that then-Commissioner Elaine Boyer had paid for personal expenses with her county Visa card. After his story was published, a federal investigation began, and Edwards, working with Channel 2 Action News reporter Jodie Fleischer and DeKalb County reporter Mark Niesse, continued to scrutinize questionable spending by DeKalb officials. That work found evidence that Boyer was involved in a kickback scheme with an evangelist who supposedly gave her policy advice. Other stories also detailed misspending by other DeKalb officials and lax policies that left the county vulnerable to waste, fraud and abuse. On Wednesday, former state Attorney General Mike Bowers began a sweeping investigation into corruption in the county.

  

Former DeKalb County Commissioner Stan Watson pleaded guilty Wednesday to receiving about $3,000 in advances for government trips and using the money for personal purposes.

Watson, who repaid the money before he was charged with crime, was sentenced to 12 months of probation and 150 hours of community service for a misdemeanor count of theft by conversion.

Watson, 63, withdrew advance checks early last year for conferences in Chicago and Savannah, but then he resigned from office in March 2016 before those trips took place.

County policy requires that unused travel funds must be repaid immediately, but he didn’t complete his reimbursing the government until nearly a year after the trips, according to District Attorney Sherry Boston’s Office.